Water Sprite Plant Care: Floating, Propagation, Roots

Water sprite plants are easy to grow freshwater aquarium plants that are available at most pet stores. Usually, if you see plants labeled as Water Fern, Indian Fern, and Indian Water Fern, these will be water sprites. These plants are a very common freshwater aquarium plant and are almost always available in local pet stores and chain stores. Water sprites can survive planted or left floating in the water.

Common NameWater Sprite
Scientific NameCeratopteris Thalictroides
Other NamesIndian Fern, Indian Water Fern, Fine Leaf Indian Fern, Water Horn Fern,
Water Stag-horn Fern, Mizuwarabi
Difficulty/Care LevelEasy
LightingModerate to high
pH6.0 – 8.0
Water hardness  soft – medium-hard
Temperature (optimal)22 – 27 C (70– 82 F)
Substrateany / can float
Growth RateFast
Minimum Tank Size10 Gallons
Growth ConditionsSubmerse and Immersed
Placement in TankMid to Background 
Heightup to 30 cm (~ 12 inches) and more
CO2Not needed – Low
PropagationAdventitious Plantlet /  Cutting / Rhizome Division


The leaves of the water sprite plant are green in color. The stem is usually a darker green color than the leaves. The leaves extend in a finger-like pattern from a central stem. Leaves usually resemble the typical fern; fanning out from the stem in interesting patterns. Water sprite can grow out of the tank if there is enough space. They have long roots which thrive floating or planted.

How To Plant Water Sprite

Water sprite plants can thrive while planted in the substrate or floating in the water. Planted water sprites look best in the mid or background of the aquarium. Floating water sprites occupy the water’s surface and provide shade. Not only that, but floating plants can help offset algal overgrowth or algal bloom.

Planting In The Substrate

Water sprite plants need 2 – 3 inches of substrate for their roots. You can dig a small hole in the substrate and place the roots into the hole. Be careful not to damage the roots and stems when you attempt to root the plant to the substrate.

Once the roots are set, cover the hole with the substrate making sure that the plant is sturdy. The crown (where the root meets the stem) of the plant should be visible and even on the surface.

Don’t plant water sprites with their roots exposed. And, you should plant the crown so low that it appears buried. Water sprites can be planted in gravel, sand, or other substrates, but its best to keep aquarium plants in a nutrient-rich substrate for better growth and health.

Floating Water Sprite

Floating water sprite plants grow on the surface of the water and receive their nutrients from the water column. To grow floating water sprites, place the stem and leaves in the aquarium water. After a few days, the plant grows hanging roots and continues to grow in that manner.

Floating water sprite plants usually have broader leaves than planted varieties. During the early growth stages, it will grow thin roots at first. Then, it will develop thinner roots later on. The fine roots can trap bits of food that Amano Shrimp or Red Cherry Shrimp can scavenge.

The roots also provide breeding grounds for certain fish where the female will lay her eggs between the roots. Also, water sprites work well with other species of plants such as the Anacharis, where the roots wrap around the stem of the Anacharis and create an aesthetic look.

How To Care For Water Sprite Plant

Water sprite care is easy. The plant can adapt to a variety of water conditions and can tolerate varying levels of light. Because water sprite is so adaptable, it’s a great plant for beginners.

The only thing to look out for is overgrowth. With the right conditions, water sprite plants have the capacity to grow like weeds. So, you need to monitor its growth and trim when necessary.

To trim a water sprite plant, cut excess growth and dead stems without tugging at the plant. Do not tear off pieces of the plant. Try to trim the stem as close to the base as you can.

Optimal water conditions:

  • Temperature: 68-82°F
  • pH: 6.0-7.5
  • Hardness: KH 3-8
  • Medium to high light levels
  • Low to medium water movement

Water sprite care is very easy. The most pressing issue is overgrowth. So, if it grows too quickly, it is important that you trim some of the outer stems. However, be sure that you do not cut the main stem (the one protruding directly from the roots), as that will harm the plant and may cause it to die.

Growth Rate

Water sprite, when planted, can grow tall and breach the water’s surface. But, floating water sprites tend to grow spread out into stems, leaves, and roots on/below the water’s surface. The average growth rate of a water sprite plant depends on lighting intensity as well as exposure duration.

For example, low light conditions mean that the water sprite grows slower. So, the higher light intensity will speed up its growth rate.

Likewise, more prolonged exposure to light speeds up the growth rate while shorter durations slow down the growth rate. One more thing to note is that water sprite floating in the fish tank tends to grow faster than water sprites planted in the substrate.

Water Sprite Propagation & Reproduction

Water sprite plants reproduce through adventitious plantlets that shoot off from the main plant. The plantlets grow roots of their own and eventually separate from the main plant.

To propagate water sprite, you can also trim a stem that has a fair amount of leaves and place it in the water. In a couple of days, the stem should produce roots and become a separate plant.

How to propagate water sprite


How To Buy Healthy Water Sprite Plants

When buying water sprite plants, look for the ones with lots of leaf blades, strong stems, and long roots. Healthy leaves will be light green with no signs of wear and tear. The stem can have a bit of a darker color than the leaves, but it should still look light-green. The plant should be upright and sturdy (if planted).

When you’re buying Water Sprite, another thing to look at is its color. The leaves and stem should be green and any color other than this, especially in the leaves, could mean something is wrong.

Do not buy the water sprite plant if the leaves and stems are far and few. They should not appear to be damaged or dying. If the leaves are brown or turning brown, do not buy the plant. Do not buy water sprites with short roots or roots that appear to be decomposing or brown.

Water Sprite Tank Mates

The following fish can be kept in the same tank as a water sprite plant:

  • Tetras
  • Guppies
  • Corydoras
  • Killifish
  • Glass Catfish
  • Platies
  • Mollies
  • Bettas

Freshwater shrimp:

However, avoid freshwater snails as they might eat the leaves. Cichlids and Goldfish will usually eat the leaves of the water sprite, so they too should be avoided.

Plants like anacharis, hornwort, and java fern can share a tank with water sprite plants. These plants can also provide hiding places for freshwater nano fish or fry.

Video: Water Sprite Aquarium Plant Profile

Is Water Sprite low light?

Water sprite does best under medium to high light conditions. The plant still grows under low light conditions – though at a much slower rate. It’s always best to use a full spectrum light and algae growth is usually not a concern in a tank with water sprite.

Is water sprite easy to grow?

Water sprite is an easy-to-grow stem plant that thrives with plenty of nutrients under medium to high lighting.

Does water sprite need Co2?

Co2 is not a necessity but will definitely help Water sprite propagation and growth. Water sprite is very versatile and can be grown planted, floating, or attached to rocks or driftwood.